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Sunday, October 23, 2011

The NSW Mess and What it Means Here

Big changes appear to be coming to harness racing in NSW.  Due to the scandal in New South Wales where it is alleged certain stewards were letting trainers know if their horses were being 'swabbed' the next race day, the integrity of harness racing in NSW is reeling. 

The Minister of Racing in NSW has proposed merging the thoroughbred and harness racing stewards under one code, Horse Racing NSW (the thoroughbred organization) in order to restore confidence in the sport.  While Horse Racing in NSW has approved the merger, there are concerns how it will work in actuality.

Meanwhile the investigation into the NSW swabbing scandal continues as officials go through a multitude of information.  While no formal charges have been filed, two stewards have resigned over the allegations and one owner and driver have been warned off the track.  There is a possibility that up to 500 races may have been impacted by this scandal.

Now, not being familiar with racing down under the question needs to be asked "How could this happen?"  It is bad enough when we get situations of drivers and trainers being accused of wrong doing, but when those who are charged to protect the gamblers fail through malfeasance, it is beyond comprehension that gamblers can wager on these races; hence the merger of Harness Racing NSW into Horse Racing NSW is an effort to salvage an industry from imploding.

What does that have to do with us in the United States?  While we are fortunate that we have no judges implicated in any race scandals, are the racing commissions failing us when those accused of wrong doing basically go through a revolving door?  Sure they get caught and they pay their fines and serve their suspensions,but once they do their time, back they come.  Become undesirable in one state, you move on to the next state.  The only way to solve this problem in the States is if a compact between racing states is formed where one set of rules and commission is established and the commission ends the revolving door.  Not that it becomes one strike and you are out, but if someone becomes a regular to the racing commission as a result of infractions, one commission ruling the person off does a much better job of solving the problem of wrong doing.  In addition, having one regulatory commission would allow for stewards to be rotated to different tracks; not the current situation where the same judges are always at the same track; a way to prevent the coziness which appears to have been part of the problem in NSW.

Overkill you say?  Hypothetically, what would happen to the harness racing industry if we had a scandal like the one in NSW at the Meadowlands?  You could kiss harness racing as we know it goodbye.

What is happening in NSW is a tragedy.  We should not just dismiss it as something happening in Australia, but look at it as a warning as what could happen here and take steps to prevent it.

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